Since the 1970s, the UK has suffered an exponential decline in habitat biodiversity.
An understanding that habitats have significant economic value (ecosystem service value) that is lost when habitats are lost has led to the UK Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan, intended to improve, expand and connect habitats to address wildlife decline and provide wider environmental benefits for people.
The delivery of Nature Recovery Networks (NRN) at local, regional and national scales is a major commitment within the 25-Year Environment Plan.
About the Client:
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is the leading local independent conservation organisation. They are working to bring about nature’s recovery across Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull through practical action, education and influencing behavioral change.
Client's request to Spottitt:
To develop and execute meaningful NRN activities, a detailed understanding of the current status of habitats is required. While areas of interest have been surveyed and their habitats classified, there is no national coverage, nor is this information current or standardized.
The question posed by the client was, ‘Can new data sources, automation and machine learning techniques be used to gather this valuable habitat data at an acceptable cost, frequency and accuracy?’
“Spottitt converted the satellite data into UK habitat classification mapping data (showing the habitat in each field!) using artificial intelligence (and a lot of human intelligence too!). This data is game-changing for us. It allows for continuous improvement of evidence-led decision-making. You can see the path network in the woodland and where we’ve cut some trees down to improve the structure, creating more varied habitat so more wildlife can live in the woodland. The data is so detailed, we can walk straight to the tallest tree in the woodland; how cool is that! With a little more work this type of analysis will help us to record where the rarest things are, where the changes have occurred, and where the best opportunities for creating new habitats will be.”
The area of interest: 55 square km of the Shipston River Stour catchment area.
Satellite imagery: 50 cm resolution satellite imagery of this area taken in July 2021.
Scope: Level II + Habitat classification:
- Unmodified grassland
- Modified grassland
- Woodland and Forest
- Broadleaved woodland
- Coniferous woodland
- Heathland and Scrub
- Sparsely Vegetated Land
- Rivers and Lakes